DANIEL: The Growing Trucker Shortage Could Have Catastrophic Consequences

(Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Hayden Daniel Deputy & Opinion Editor
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The Biden administration is frantically trying to downplay the supply chain bottleneck on the West Coast, and, for the most part, the corporate media has played along by focusing on the possibility that packages may not arrive perfectly on time for Christmas.

In reality, a late delivery from Santa is the least of Americans’ worries and the least distressing facet of our supply chain problems. While lines of tankers anchored off the coast make for good headline photos, the shortage of truckers could cause the entire nation to grind to a halt.

Almost three-quarters of all domestic freight in the United States is transported by truck, according to the Department of Transportation, meaning Americans depend on truckers for the vast majority of their daily necessities.

Just before the pandemic, there was a shortage of about 60,000 drivers, but that number has ballooned to over 100,000. Because of the shortage, the goods offloaded from tankers at major ports have nowhere to go, creating an even bigger backup in the supply chain.

Americans are already seeing higher prices and some empty shelves due to the bottleneck, but what happens if this shortage continues or gets even worse?

Even a temporary shortage in truck drivers could still have devastating consequences. As more and more freight piles up at ports with no trucks to transport them, prices for those goods could skyrocket. The same can be said for crops and other foods like meat and dairy. An already bad inflation spike could become much worse.

Gas prices go up, and some stations may run out of gas entirely, further exacerbating the transportation shortage. When essential goods become more scarce and the prices go up, people begin to hoard said goods — jacking up the price even further. We’ve all seen the levels of looting, hoarding and swindling people will engage in to get basic necessities in the wake of natural disasters like hurricanes. We saw the insanity that broke out over a roll of toilet paper or a bottle of hand sanitizer during the early days of the pandemic.

Now apply that across all essential goods in the economy, including food. This relatively minor disruption of the supply chain — a shortage of truck drivers — can spiral out of control very quickly. Shortages and price hikes feed into each other and create a cycle that could devastate normal Americans. Empty shelves at grocery stores and depleted fuel pumps could be the beginning of mass hysteria, resulting in an economic tumble and perhaps even violence as people battle for resources.

The truly surprising thing about this chain of events is how quickly it can unfold. A couple of days is all it takes to deplete most food stocks and fuel reserves. Supply chain disruptions have caused havoc for nations throughout history, but we’ve seen what major supply chain disruptions can do within the last twenty years.

A series of protests in 2000 over fuel prices in the United Kingdom truckers brought the country to a virtual standstill in less than a week. Thousands of gas stations ran out of gas, and essential services like the police and emergency medical care basically shut down until the government made concessions to the protesters.

The Biden administration needs to take action quickly to solve the shortage if it doesn’t want to see the economy in shambles by Christmastime.

Expanded unemployment benefits doled out by the administration in response to the pandemic as well as the vaccine mandate requiring companies with over 100 employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated most likely contributed to the current shortage. The Biden administration could make a temporary special exemption for truckers to alleviate the crisis, but realistically rolling back the government benefits that have incentivized millions of people to not work is essential in solving this problem.

If push comes to shove, Biden could mobilize the military to help keep gas stations full and grocery stores stocked.

Since they dominate so much of the land transit portion of the supply chain, truckers really are one of the most powerful groups in America.

Shortages of basic necessities have caused the downfall of powerful empires like Rome and several Chinese dynasties. It is truly one of the deadliest problems, for both the populace and the ruling class, a regime can face. If Biden doesn’t want to risk ending up like those other leaders who failed to feed their people, he better come up with a solution. Fast.

Hayden Daniel is the opinion editor at the Daily Caller.